Winchester Model 1885

A how-to on renovating a Model 1885 Winchester rifle and adding a Schnabel tip to a custom restoration.

by Paul Mazan

The purchase of the design rights to a then-new single shot rifle by a Winchester manager in 1883 was the beginning of a legendary partnership and the birth of the legend of John Moses Browning. When Thomas Bennett, Vice-President and General Manager of the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, traveled to Ogden, Utah and negotiated the purchase of Browning’s single-shot rifle design destined to become the Winchester Model 1885 it was the first collaboration between the two icons. Here is how I renovated a used and abused example.

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In 1883, a Winchester salesman discovered a used single shot rifle for sale. The barrel was marked “Browning Bros. Ogden, Utah U.S.A.” and he was so intrigued with it that he sent it in to the Winchester factory. The folks at Winchester took one look at it and were so impressed that Bennett himself was soon on a train heading out to Ogden determined to buy the rights to the rifle. He met with an obscure inventor and gunmaker named John Browning, concluded a deal for the rifle, and was back on the train headed home the same day. It was the start of a business relationship that was to last for many years and produce some of the most iconic firearms ever invented.

What became the Winchester Model 1885 single shot rifle was John Browning’s first design. He was producing and selling it out of his shop before Winchester came calling. The rifle was available in both High Wall and Low Wall configurations with the Low Wall chambered for the less powerful cartridges and the High Wall for the more powerful. In all, the rifle was chambered for over 30 calibers from the .22 Short to the 50/90 Sharps.

I recently acquired a very well used and run-down Winchester 1885 Low Wall single shot rifle chambered in 25-20 Single Shot that was in desperate need of a loving hand.

Read more in the February 2023 issue.

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